POINCIANA – As expected, Osceola County commissioners gave unanimous approval on Monday to the development agreement for the Poinciana Parkway.
That vote clears the way for construction to begin on a project that the community of Poinciana has been waiting years for.
“This is a great day for Poinciana residents, who have long wanted and needed another way to get in and out of their community,” said Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington, whose district covers Poinciana. “I’m happy that all the parties involved in this project were able to come together and deliver something that is so critical to the future of Poinciana.”
The parkway will be owned by Osceola and Polk counties, since the new toll road will run through both counties, and will be constructed and operated by the Osceola County Expressway Authority. The authority will collect tolls on the new highway, revenue that will be used for the project’s long-term maintenance costs.
This project is expected to cost $160 million, and will be supported by transportation bonds backed by both counties. Final contracts will be signed in mid-October. The project’s estimated completion date is mid-2015.
Don Fisher, Osceola County’s county manager, said this project demonstrates that the governments in Osceola and Polk counties are ready to work together for the benefit of every resident of Poinciana. The community of 10 villages is divided between both counties, with 52,000 residents on the Osceola County side, and 32, 000 residents living in the Polk County villages.
“The Poinciana Parkway has been a great opportunity for us,” Fisher said. “I think there has to be more collaboration like this. That hasn’t happened in the past.”
Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, said the approval of the Poinciana Parkway is vital to the community’s long-term future.
PEDA, a non-profit group working to bring more jobs and economic opportunity to the community, has long supported the Poinciana Parkway as a vital project that will provide local residents with a faster way of getting in and out of the area, while also making the community more attractive to new businesses.
Murdock noted that with the Poinciana Medical Center – the community’s first hospital – now under construction and expected to open next summer, the Poinciana Parkway will give the community not only thousands of new construction jobs, but a long-term advantage as well.
“The approval of the Poinciana Parkway will be our second fountainhead for the community,” Murdock said. “It’s a great necessity.”
The Development Agreement means Osceola County is obligated to build at least two lanes of the Poinciana Parkway from the existing intersection of County Road 54 and U.S. 17-92 to Cypress Parkway.
The 9.66-mile road, expected to have its groundbreaking around the end of the year, is part of the Osceola County Expressway Authority’s 2040 Transportation Network Master Plan.
This also marks the start of a project that dates back to the 1990s, well before Poinciana experienced the massive residential growth spurt in the past decade which saw its population soar past 84,000.
The rapid growth in the past decade gave Poinciana a larger population than some neighboring cities, but the main roadways in and out of the community are Pleasant Hill Road and Poinciana Boulevard – which can get very crowded and congested during rush hour traffic in the morning and afternoons.
Although the main builder in the community, AV Homes, began working on getting the toll road built eight years ago, it got delayed in part because of challenge securing state environmental permitting. The toll road would cut through Reedy Creek, an environmentally protected wetlands preserve in Osceola County.
The state eventually required that AV Homes build a 15-foot bridge over the preserve, which inflated the costs of this project from about $40 million to more than $120 million, making it prohibitively expensive for the developer to finance.
So AV Homes turned to the county governments in Osceola and Polk, and convinced both sides to support the project and make it a public roadway.
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